BK. Ezra Pound

21. Certain Noble Plays of Japan: From the Manuscripts of Ernest Fenollosa, Chosen and Finished by Ezra Pound, With an Introduction by William Butler Yeats (BL11). Churchtown, Dundrum: Cuala, 1916. Reprint, Shannon: Irish UP, 1971.

    The plays are reprinted with emendation in ‘Noh’ or Accomplishment. Yeats’s Introduction is re-connected with them in The Classic Noh Theatre of Japan.  

The first book publication of Pound’s versions of the nô, published at Yeats’s request at his sister’s press, in an edition of 350. Yeats did extensive work on the manuscript (see 175), but Pound rejected most of his ‘suggestions and corrections’ (see 183, p. 204). Reprints with slight emendations Nishikigi (8), Hagoromo (13d), and Kumasaka (17g). All the work except Yeats’s introduction is reprinted in ‘Noh’ (24); Yeats’s introduction is restored in the 1959 republication of ‘Noh’ as The Classic Noh Theatre of Japan. See also A64, BK28, 59d, 90a, 92, 154, 155, 161, and 201.

a. Kagekiyo. The background of this work, as in so many others in Japanese tradition, is the series of historic battles between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans in the twelfth century, the so-called Gempei wars, which saw the Minamoto destroy the Taira and ascend to a hegemony that lasted in name if not always in fact through the Kamakura period (1186-1336), so-named after the city in which the first Minamoto shogun, Yoritomo (see BJ4i), established his capital. Pound’s version of this work about the Taira warrior Kagekiyo’s heroic acceptance of the tragedy that befell his family includes passages of striking beauty and captures the central images of the play, but is compromised by condensations and omissions. An earlier translation had appeared in Stopes’s Plays of Old Japan (see D23), a work Pound knew (see 13a), and so the Fenollosa/Hirata draft now at Yale (see 90a) was not his only source. The work opens with Kagekiyo’s daughter searching for her father, known for his courage during the wars but now a blind and grief-stricken beggar. She finds him, and her love moves him to relate tales of his days of honour. He asks her at the end to return to her home and she reluctantly obeys. The play stayed with Pound, in honorific references to its ‘Homeric’ nature even in 1917 and 1918 when he expressed dissatisfaction with the nô (see 59e-f and 83), in Guide to Kulchur(45b), and in other works (see 28, 53, and 76e), including the first of The Pisan Cantos, LXXIV (56a), where like Kagekiyo himself Pound addresses his personal tragedy. Quoted there are the ‘Homeric’ lines to which Pound often referred: in battle at Yashima with the Minamoto warrior Mionoya, Kagekiyo had grasped the latter’s shikoro, a set of protective straps hanging from a medieval Japanese helmet designed to protect the neck, and they had come off in his hands; fleeing in terror Mionoya turns and shouts, ‘How terrible, how heavy your arm’, and Kagekiyo calls back to him, ‘How tough the shaft of your neck is’, and in Pound’s version ‘they both laughed out over the battle, and went off each his own way’. See A Guide (201) for Yasukawa and Shioji’s ‘Notes for Readers’ of the play, a glossary of Japanese names and terms, discussion of ‘Kagekiyo and The Cantos’, and a transcription of the Fenollosa/ Hirata draft; see also 82b14, 179, and D26b.





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